Operation Prosperity Guardian: Echoes of the Coalition of the Willing in the Red Sea

The United States has initiated Operation Prosperity Guardian, a collective show of force involving a coalition of nations reminiscent of the Coalition of the Willing under President George W. Bush. They were facing reluctance from many traditional U.S. allies to join the war aimed at toppling Saddam Hussein. Germany and France had reservations about the military intervention in Iraq. Consequently, the coalition expanded to include a diverse range of smaller countries with relatively insignificant military capabilities. This broadened participation highlighted the challenges in garnering widespread international support for the Iraq War, as the coalition’s composition became more inclusive of countries willing to contribute in various capacities beyond major military forces.

Fast forward two decades later, this operation aims to control the strategic Red Sea, particularly the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, to prevent disruptions by Yemeni Houthi rebels to shipping vessels with direct ties to Israel.

The Bab-el-Mandeb strait holds immense geopolitical significance due to its location at the southern entrance of the Red Sea, connecting the Gulf of Aden. This narrow passage is a vital international waterway through which considerable global trade passes, including ships supporting Israel. The strait is a gateway for vessels traveling to and from the Suez Canal, making it crucial for the uninterrupted flow of goods.

The primary motive behind Operation Prosperity Guardian is to counter the threat posed by Yemeni Houthi rebels. By gaining control of this strategic waterway, the coalition aims to ensure the safe passage of ships supporting Israel and prevent disruptions to global trade. Ships of Russian and Chinese descent and vessels from countries that do not support Israel’s bombardment of Gaza have not come under direct attack.

During a diplomatic trip to the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin garnered support for his new coalition from Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, Spain, Bahrain, and Britain. However, since the announcement of Operation Prosperity Guardian, France, Spain, Italy and other countries have chosen to withdraw their naval fleets from the operation, refusing to place them under U.S. command.

These withdrawals coincide with a global call for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict. Citizens around the world have taken to the streets, urging an end to the bombing of Gaza and advocating for peaceful resolutions. The growing demand for de-escalation and diplomacy is now the focal point for citizens tired of the bombings and killings.

The unwillingness to participate in Operation Prosperity Guardian underscores the challenges and complexities of multinational military interventions. Leaders must consider the potential consequences of their military vessels coming under attack and the implications for domestic and international perceptions. Unlike the United States, which maintains a year-round military complex, its allies may not be accustomed to the continuous engagement often associated with being the “World Police.” The situation in the Red Sea continues to evolve, prompting a critical examination of the motives, consequences, and diplomatic efforts associated with Operation Prosperity Guardian.